Yangon City – Where Golden Light is Never Faded
» About Yangon City
In 2006, the capital of Myanmar moved from Yangon City to Naypyidaw. However, when talking about Myanmar, people still think about Yangon, the former capital which is located in the Yangon and Bago river meeting point.
Yangon City (also known as Rangoon) is the biggest city in Myanmar with the population of 4.082.000 (2005). The city is located in the Yangon and Bago river meeting point, 30 km from Martaban Gulf.
In November 2005, the Council of the Burmese military administration decided to move the capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw Mandalay province. Naypyidaw officially has become the new capital of Myanmar since March 26, 2006.
In comparison with other big cities in Southeast Asia, Yangon is relatively undeveloped. The construction boom is largely thanks to Chinese and Singaporean investment. Many business and apartment buildings were built in the city center. Yangon City owns the most colonial buildings in Southeast Asia nowadays. The government offices are in colonial buildings (for example: Myanmar Supreme Court, Yangon City Hall, Scott Market and Hospital are in renovating plans). New Towns and other suburbs like Thaketa are still in poverty.
Yangon City is thousand years old, occupies only under 1% total Myanmar square (576 km quare, ¼ of Saigon’s) but accounts for 115 population (5 millions pople). From the airplane view, Yangon is so simple but impressive in sunshine: sparkling golden tower combines with urban areas and green trees. Countless towers and temples seem to dye the space with its golden color. Myanmar must be called the land of temple and tower!
» Shwedagon Pagoda – Symbol of Yangon City
Yangon city is now still attractive with large boulevards, green tree lines and quiet lakes. The most attractive feature is its unique architecture. Specially, the Shwedagon temple is considered one of world’s ancient wonders and one of the best places to visit in Yangon once enjoying Yangon tours. It is 98m high and really a golden light of the downtown. That’s why we can see the temple from everywhere in the city.
According to legend, this temple was built 2500 years ago and also the place where Buddha’s hair is kept. Since many past centuries, the people here have donated their assets as part of the merit accrued to build the temple. They have donated gold and jewelry which are now about 80.000 items, especially a diamond stud sphere on the top of temple’s tower. Around the temple, there are a lot of other towering temples and many small stalls to serve the pilgrims. We can witness Buddhist rituals when they pray and make offering.
» Other Corners of Yangon City
Attractions in Yangon City are numerous such as Laba Moni temple with a giant jade Buddha statue which is about 20m high and 900 tons weight, the floating Krawei is gorgeous on Kundawgyi lake and Bogyoke market is where you can find a lot of gems from jade, ruby, sapphire to handicraft products, wooden souvenir. If you are clever enough in bargaining, you can buy gem paintings, jade necklace… at a low cost. You can feel free to bargain and make payment by USD. Yangon really makes Myanmar travel more and more developing.
Mentioned in almost Myanmar travel guide, Yangon City seems to be another world – the world of “sleeping” villages that you can see when walking around the town. Thanlyin and Kyauktan towns are featured by old monasteries and temples hidden in small jungles. Kyaik Khauk festivals in Kyauktan are among the biggest fair in the area. Not far from there is Twante village where is famous for traditional pottery skills.
» Culture and Life in Yangon City
Travel to Myanmar will be more amazing if you understand a little about local culture. Main language is Burmese. English is also used popularly by the elder or well-educated in the countryside. The oldest university (established in 1920) is located in Yangon City. Two among fours medical schools of the nation are also set in this city.
» Yangon City is Also an Important Economical Centre of Myanmar
Yangon City is economical centre of Myanmar. Almost imports – exports are from Yangon. In 2004, the government allowed the Shanghai Jinqiao Export Processing Zone Development Company to deploy up the Myanmar’s largest Special Economic Zone in Thanlying Township, near Thilawa port. The planning was completed in 2006 but not yet approved.
» Something You May Not Know About Transportation in Yangon City
Yangon International Airport is about 19 km from the city. Buses are always full of people. Railway systems reaches to provinces in the north of Myanmar. The government always limits car imports and hence there’s a black market which provides new and secondhand cars from Thailand and China. Gasoline is also distributed according to standard and there also have gasoline black market. Driving motorbike in the city is illegal, especially in Yangon city center.
Yangon city was planned very professionally by the British, now it is just like a down-and-out swashbuckler. Streets are straight like a chessboard with no alley. There are many downgraded and untidy buildings, many featured streets of Chinese and Indian. Besides, there are also many wealthy and luxurious villas. British architecture left gets the better of similar French buildings in Indochina. After a long time standing still, a lot of new building are in progress, which are like the Burmese’s desire for a fast development.
The city has not only colonial British buildings but also many newly-built commercial office building and apartments. There are about 5 million people in Yangon City but almost no motorbike – only taxi and buses. Officer, middle and higher classes use taxi while the poor walk or take a bus. Zai Myo Thet, a taxi driver, said: the government bans people (except for officer) from owning and driving motorbike in the city, however, it’s possible in countryside and remote areas.
A large number of car in Myanmar is secondhand cars from Japan, which dated back from 1980, 1990 and even 1950. Almost all the taxis have no glass window, no conditioner, old interior and engine… The temperature is hot (nearly 40 C) so every drive has a bottle of water, a sedge fan and a tower to wash sweats away.
At the first time, visitors are shocked and wondered when car’s door would burst but then it became more familiar. The car is really old and doesn’t run smoothly but the driver still drive very fast. The guests screamed in fear but the driver always reassure them. Buses are always packed with people because they have no other choice. Foreign backpackers also don’t dare to get in the bus although they’re in a tight budget.
Despite of a lot of cars, there’s no traffic jam in Yangon City. Yangon totally bans motorcycle so that the streets are very quiet. Most of the cars are old. Car price in Vietnam is expensive but it’s nearly twice in Myanmar. Gasoline is also expensive and limitedly distributed (by coupon). Public means of transportation like buses are very old and chaotic: people who hang on, swing are much more than one who sit. Any vehicle in Myanmar can be used to carry humans, even homemade farm truck or vehicle pulled by cattle. There’s little modern car. Taxis have no meter and conditioner. Cost are counted according to distance, sometimes you have to share the taxi with strangers.
Bicycle are also imported from Thailand and China. Burmese renovate it into Trisaw – a three-wheeled transportation like cyclo in Vietnam. It looks not as nice and stable as cyclo but can carry 2 people or 300 kg of goods or cattle.
» Electricity and Telephone in Yangon City
I thought that there’s no telephone, no internet and lack of electricity in Yangon but it’s not so bad. The telephone network in Myanmar is so so. In the lobby of 3 star hotels and above, wifi is available but very slow.
The demand for telephone of the people is very high. There’s private telephone for hire every hundred meters on the street. In rush hours, lots of people queue and wait for their turn. Domestic fare is not so expensive – it takes about 1000 kyat (VND 28.000) in Yangon area. Only wealthy people and worker in tourism industry can own a cell phone.
There are a lot of electric generators in various sizes on the streets due to lack of electricity. The state’s electricity is weak and hence many family, shops, apartments have to own an electric generator.
» Nowadays, Yangon City is an Interesting Destination for Myanmar Travel
Under American and European Union embargo for over 30 years, Myanmar also banned tourists from many countries. The country has a long history and many significant monuments, however, none of them has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Volatile politics, poor country but the lives of the Burmese is quiet and no hustle as they follow Buddhist philosophy: “lessening the indulgence and comfort,” they do not need to make money at any cost of arduous physical, sometimes even causing bad karma, “would rather beg than steal”. Currently, Myanmar is trying to break the tight grip with many bold ways and decisive step. This market is full of potential cooperation and promises in tourism, trade, services and many other fields.
Currently, Yangon City in Myanmar is indeed a fascinating sight that any visitor cannot ignore. Besides the famous temple of Botahtaung, Sule Pagoda and Kyaukhtatgyi Pagoda, Yangon also has some unique architecture as Hindu temples, mosques, and Christian Cathedrals. A lot of treasures from the ancient kingdoms are still kept in Myanmar National Museum. In a Yangon City Tour, you can also stroll in the park next to the lake of Kandawgyi or the bazaars in the city.
The most visited place in the Yangon city is Bogyoke Aung San trade center (also known as Scott Market), located in the center, where selling everything from gems to luxury silk products.
For guests wishing refreshment, Yangon city has a lot of refreshment stalls with full options for customers, including Japanese cuisine, Korean, Chinese, Thai and Asian cuisine, and of course Myanmar’s delicacies.
Yangon deserves to be one of the most fascinating cities in Myanmar with delightful experience for visitors. Pack your bag and enjoy a nice journey in the golden city of Yangon!
Not only Yangon, Myanmar still hides its own mysteries that you may not know, please check out our travel options below to find if there is any one you feel like.
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